My husband is clutching our ten-year- old
Schnoodle protectively. Shasta wriggles
to get down, oblivious to the heated
discussion about her future, while Bob
looks at me as though I am the grim reaper. “What
about me? Would you have me put down if I needed

“It depends. Are you peeing on the carpet?” I dump
a half-cup of prescription dog food into a bowl and
Shasta leaps from his arms to dance in front of me as I
place it on the floor.

“Not yet, but give me time.”

“She’s a dog,” I remind him. She looks up, crunching
noisily on her food. “And we agreed that we
wouldn’t go through this again. It’s only been ten
months since the last surgery.”

“But look at her,” he says with that “isn’t she
sweet?” tone. We watch in silence as the dog inhales
her food and shamelessly burps. Her brown eyes flit
back and forth between us as she tries to figure out
why we are hovering over her. “She’s still relatively
young,” he points out. “And healthy.”

“Hardly.” She is on her second round of bladder
stones in less than a year. They are nasty little things
with sharp points that cause blood in the urine and frequent
urination, much of it on our hall carpet. “She’s
like a used car,” I sigh, turning to load the dishwasher.
“At what point do you say that the repairs are a bad
investment and just go and buy a newer model?”

“You’re comparing our dog to a car?” he asks,
appalled at my apparent lack of compassion.

But she was only supposed to stay a few weeks!
I can’t help it. I was raised in a household where pets
were loved, but never at the expense of the family. If
the cat needed spaying and my sister needed shoes,
the shoes came first (hence the two litters of kittens). If
the dog had bad breath, we stopped putting our noses
quite so close to her mouth. Dental work was hard
enough to afford for three kids, never mind the stray
hound that adopted us.

Now here we are with Shasta, the little white dog
we agreed to watch for just a few weeks, the one
who has been with us for five years. As much as I
have never favoured small dogs, I have to admit that
she is feisty, energetic, and fun loving. She bounds
through the woods after deer as though she is a
hound, and walks with us for miles, just like Maggie
used to. Maggie was a real dog, a Lab/Border Collie
we had for twelve years until her hips finally gave
out. Maggie was my dog. She would never have peed
on the carpet.

So much for the trip to Antigua
My mind has done a quick calculation. Exam and
x-rays – $93. Surgery – $1000. Urinalysis every three months – $35 a sample. Special dog food
– $70 a bag. Never mind her regular checkups,
dog-sitting costs, grooming, and carpet

“We can’t afford to go through this
every year,” I sigh. “Small dogs live a long
time. She’ll end up costing us over $10,000
soon. Do you have $10,000?” I know he
doesn’t. He has just bought a new plasma

“I just bought a new plasma television.”

“Exactly!” I crow.

“But that’s the point. If we can afford
to buy a new TV, and build a new deck,
and go out for dinner Friday night, how
can we say we can’t afford to have the
dog operated on?” Shasta wags her stubby
tail. “Ready for your walk?” Bob asks her.
She barks and runs full tilt to the back
door. Even though she is in pain, she’s too
excited about a walk to remember.

“I’ll walk her,” I offer, closing the dishwasher.

“You sure?”

“Yeah.” I walk down the hall to the
back door and pull on my shoes as Shasta
barks at me demandingly. “Stop barking,”
I tell her sternly. She sits. I look at her
tiny face and see her quivering in eager
anticipation of her third walk of the day.
Sighing, I call down the hall. “Go ahead
and book the surgery.”

“Okay,” he shouts back. He was probably
already on the phone.

Later that night as we are lying in bed,
Shasta’s small body curled in the crook
of my knees, I rub her curly fur. “I could
never have done it,” I admit.

“I know,” Bob answers in the dark.
Shasta sighs and presses closer to me.